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Published February 06, 2014, 10:08 AM

Xcel executives say gas conservation helped

Xcel Energy customers’ efforts to curb their heat usage in the wake of a recent pipeline rupture helped stabilize natural gas supplies, company executives have said.

By: John Hageman, Grand Forks Herald

Xcel Energy customers’ efforts to curb their heat usage in the wake of a recent pipeline rupture helped stabilize natural gas supplies, company executives have said.

Xcel asked customers in North Dakota, northern Minnesota and part of Wisconsin to turn down their thermostats after the Jan. 25 TransCanada Corp. pipeline rupture, which put three pipelines out of service in the hours ahead of Blizzard Era Bell.

Curt Dallinger, Xcel’s director of gas resource planning, said they saw an 8 to 10 percent reduction in natural gas usage by affected customers during the conservation period that lasted for a couple of days. That’s substantial, he said, considering they only asked customers to turn thermostats down to 60 degrees.

Dallinger added, however, that it’s impossible to know exactly how many customers complied with the request. He said it’s also unclear what caused TransCanada’s pipeline failure.

Along with asking customers to conserve energy use, Xcel reversed some pipe flows and pulled gas from as far away as Michigan.

“The system stabilized, and natural gas continued to flow,” Xcel President and CEO Ben Fowke wrote in a letter to the editor earlier this week. “None of our customers lost service.”

Xcel officials discussed a wide range of energy issues with the Herald editorial board Wednesday.

The blizzard brought extreme cold temperatures and forced nearly every major highway closed in the region, including Interstate 29 from the Canadian border in North Dakota to Brookings, S.D., and U.S. Highway 2 from East Grand Forks to Crookston.

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